I enjoyed the experience of Sundance. Its not the coolest thing I’ve ever done with myself, but wasn’t a total waste of time either. I succeeded at making some great connections with people who might be able to help me out to one extent or another after I graduate, which honestly was the objective for me. My second priority was seeing a good deal of documentaries, because unlike the features, who knows where else I’d ever learn all that I did through my week of exploring this versatile genre. My biggest regret here at Sundance would probably be that I didn’t weave more New Frontiers films into my docu-marathon. After all Sundance is about the new frontiers and experimental, never before seen film making. The few films in this series which I did see, I really appreciated and know that I would never watch outside of a festival setting, so…maybe next time. Hopefully there will be a next time that I find myself watching quirky festival movies, and not necessarily at Sundance either– of course this is an immensely important gathering for both US and international film makers, but at the risk of whining, the weather here in Park City isn’t my thing. Hey, maybe Cannes! Anyway, in the order in which they are listed in the official Sundance Film Guide, here is a list of all the great movies I was lucky enough to see over the past ten days, hopefully some of the titles stick with those of you reading, and if you ever happen to come across it at a funky video store, you’ll decide to give it a whirl.
Posts Tagged ‘Anastassia Smordinskaya’
Don’t Let Me Drown, a feature directed by Cruz Angeles was one of the most delightful movies I’ve seen so far at Sundance. It illustrates the lives of several families living in Brooklyn, set one month after the September 11th. Sixteen year old Lalo lives with his parents and uncle in a tiny apartment. His sharp tongued mother is always concerned about making ends meet and paying the rent. His soft spoken, wonderfully kind father– formerly a janitor now works twelve hour shifts cleaning up ground zero, while Lalo’s young uncle, acts more like Lalo’s older brother, offering raunchy advice about women and never hesitates to joke at his nephews expense. One day Lalo’s friend introduces him to his cousin Stephanie who had just moved to the neighborhood from Manhattan after the attack. Her sister Crystal died in the twin towers, so Stephanie is left alone with her mother and hot headed father. They all are having a hard time coping with Crystals death, but Steph’s father seems to channel his grief into aggression. Though he clearly has his families best intentions at heart, his temper and controlling ways scare his wife and daughter. Despite a rocky start, Lalo and Stephanie fall in love, and the film follows their relationship, which helps the two teenagers escape their hardships at home.
Where is Where is one weird flick. Thats not necessarily a bad thing, in fact its the kind of artsy film making I was hoping to see more of at Sundance. However, I’m not really sure that I liked “Where is Where” all that much either, and I guess thats a pretty typical, even desired, reaction to experimental films.
“Where is Where” originated from an art installation by Finnish video artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila, which she turned into a full length movie. The idea behind the film stems from the true story of two Algerian boys who killed their good friend, a French boy, as a form of payback for a massacre of Arab families by Europeans during the Algerian war of Independence, but this isn’t really revealed until the very end of the movie. In the beginning the movie is so avant-garde, that it almost seems to be a parody on the experimental film stereotype. The entire film is shot in a four way split screen, and is accompanied by the quintessential random sounds of a piano. It also incorporates other kinds of predictable elements frequently used experimental film making, like floating figures and body parts suspended in air. My personal favorite were the non-sensical musings, so bizarre that that you become convinced their meaning is extremely deep and philosophical, and its your own fault for being too stupid to extract it ( example: “It is the end of March and the beginning of August”, “A bird outside your window makes you blush”). I’ve come to realize that when art house films use this tactic, there isn’t actually any one idea to grasp– that that the words serve an atmospheric purpose rather than an expository one, however I noticed a good number of people walking out halfway through the movie, evidently tired of having their intelligence insulted.
While I personally was thoroughly moved by 211: Anna, the documentary about the murder of liberal Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, for reasons I’ll get into in just a second, I can’t imagine how anyone else in the audience managed to sit through it.
In terms of film making, 211: Anna was just plain boring. Even though directors Paolo Serbandini and Giovanna Massimetti accumulated great footage–some of it very exclusive– as well as interviews with Anna’s husband, children and co workers, I was very disappointed by the disengaging arrangement of their material. About 80% of the movie features talking heads–individuals mumbling into the camera in Russian accompanied by what I noticed to be very poorly written subtitles, which took away from both the personality of the person speaking, as well as the inflection of their words. (more…)
I was lucky enough to attend yet another world premier this afternoon, and I think its safe to say that having made its debut, The Yes Men Fix the World is going to be a huge hit. Written and directed by “Yes Men” Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, this ballsy documentary not only received a standing ovation at the end, but had the audience breaking into applause and cheers of approval just about every ten minutes.
Yes Men follows vigilante con men Mike and Andy as they repeatedly fool the media, business people, and even government officials into believing they are representatives of massive money hungry corporations such as Halliburton and Dow which value capital over human lives. Simply by establishing fake yet convincing websites, allegedly belonging to these companies and listing themselves as high ranking officials, the Yes Men gain access to conferences and even grant interviews to major news outlets in which which they expose the skewed values of corporate America. Unlike the arrogant bitching, moaning and lying done by film makers such as, lets say Michael Moore, the Yes Men don’t just call for action–they act and they act radically. (more…)
The world premier of The Carter, Adam Bhala Lough’s intimate documentary about rapper Lil’ Wayne, was possibly one of the most highly anticipated Sundance debut’s, documentary or otherwise. It was hyped up to be shockingly intimate and revealing, promising to show audiences a side of the artist they had never seen on MTV or read in any article. For this reason, I think many of the filmgoers who left the midnight premier at Eccles Theatre were disappointed. “I didn’t really learn anything new” I heard several people moan, as though expected him to explain the story behind every tear drop tattooed on his face and do cocaine on camera.
I, on the other hand, never expected a tell-all from such a high profile artist with a history of drug dealing and gang related activity– such revelations would pose a very serious threat to his safety! I also didn’t anticipate any tabloid worthy confessions about his love life, and actually respected the fact that he stayed mum about it. Instead, I was hoping to for more insight on Lil’ Wayne as a musician, which as far as I’m concerned is the most fascinating and complicated aspect of his persona.
Keeping my expectations realistic, I left the theatre very content, and enjoyed every dynamic, musically charged moment of The Carter.
Buffalo ‘66 (1998) is the quintessential story of how love changes people for the best. Though this may be a cliched concept, the film depicted it in a most unusual way. This bizarre romantic comedy was directed by and stars Vincent Gallo, who also wrote the screenplay and composed the musical score for the movie.
The movie takes place in Buffalo, New York (Gallo’s real life hometown). Billy (Gallo) is a surly, aggressive, and clearly bitter man who has just gotten out of prison. In order to keep up the charade of having “gone away on business” in front of his parents, Billy kidnaps Layla (Christina Ricci) from a dance studio where he unsuccessfully tried to use the restroom, and forces her to pretend to be his wife during dinner with his mother and father. But after the act is up and Billy tells Layla she’s free to go, she insists on staying with him. Despite his lack of social skills, or any affection towards her, Layla decides that she truly likes Billy. While Layla is experiencing what can only be explains as Stockholm syndrome-turned genuine affection, Billy too undergoes a transformation during their time together. He begins to open up to Layla, emotionally and physically, as he allows her to eventually touch him. (more…)
While watching Richard Linklaters indie favorite Slacker, it takes a while to realize that not only is there no plot or story line, but there isn’t even a main character you’re supposed to be following. However, once the you’ve come to terms with this concept, it becomes very easy to settle in and enjoy the brief episodes featuring the musings of over a hundred characters, who make up Linklaters portrait of early 90’s bohemia in Austin, Texas.
The film takes its viewer all over the city as it introduces a cast of twenty something “slackers” who think too much and do too little. The very first of these characters, the young man trying to make sense of his dreams in the taxi cab, is Linklater himself. Some of the people the you encounter throughout the movie produce highly intelligent postulates about life and society, often unintentionally, such as the gem of wisdom from the guy describing the aging process: ” They get fat and make fun of themselves, isnt that what all old people do anyway”? Indeed! Others however, I would not deem “overeducated”, as the ensemble is described as a whole in the DVD summary. Amongst the true thinkers in Austin, the bohemian scene is also filled with crack pot conspiracy theorists, androgynous hustlers trying to sell Madonna’s pap smear, and others who would be best described as insane rather than an intellectual slacker. I thought that was actually the most interesting angle of the film, the way that Linklater created an ecclectic combination of the sane and the mad, all the while inferring that they all actually pertain to the same social demographic of early 90’s radical thinking bohemia. (more…)
I may have heard his name once or twice before, but prior to checking out his films on IMDB I had no idea who Jim Jarmusch was! I had however seen two of his movies, Dead Man (1995) and Night on Earth (1991), both of which I really liked. In fact, Night on Earth was shown to me by a friend of mine, who raved about the brilliant director who shot it, but his name never stuck with me. I became a big fan of the movie as it had two of my favorite components– several intertwining plot lines, and most importantly intimate character development and a focus on clever, yet casual and realistic dialogue, this aspect I would later discover is prevalent in nearly all of his work. Dead Man, though beautifully shot, I found a little harder to love due to its length and slower pace.
I went on to watch two more films by Jarmusch, both of which I had heard of of but not yet seen, and ended up loving them both. Broken Flowers (2005) starring Bill Murray was a funny and touching film about a rather jaded mans journey to find his son. I loved how it didn’t really go anywhere, as opposed to having a predictable Hollywood happy ending. Coffee and Cigarettes (2003) was also a blast to watch, he cast cool actors, and musicians all of which I am a big fan of to star in his collage of vignettes depicting random coffee shop small talk. The episode with Bill Murray and RZA was hilarious, as was the awkward discussion between Tom Waits and Iggy Pop. Jarmusch is clearly well connected in the world of music, and I greatly respect his taste in artists. (more…)